As I ask Vandalia sophomore Dillon Hinton about his favorite sport, he replies casually, saying, “Wrestling had the edge, but football is growing on me.” He talks to me slowly and deliberately, rattling off facts such as that he wrestled at 132 pounds and has competed since first grade. Dillon mentions that he lived in St. Elmo and later moved to Brownstown before his family moved to Vandalia when he was in fourth grade. Then he adds, with the same quiet humility, that his freshman record was 48-7, and he finished fifth in the state tournament.
At first, I questioned whether I misunderstood. Dillon says he earned the ability to call himself the fifth-best high school wrestler in Illinois during his first year of high school, using the same tone I might use while retelling what I’d ordered for dinner the night prior. Part of me wonders if he’s a perfectionist, overly hard on himself for not winning it all. But I soon realized it isn’t that simple. Dillon is equally content with his past accomplishments and optimistic for the future. This quiet confidence makes Dillon who he is.
Dillon suggests that he emulates his father, whom he’d describe as a hard worker and his role model. His father pushes him to do his best at everything while reminding him how important it is to have fun along the way. And that’s when I see the parallel. Do your best while having fun. Quiet Confidence. A father’s lessons manifested through his son’s journey in unique ways. It’s likely not that simple, but it feels like the missing piece of my mental puzzle nonetheless.
Dylan and I talk wrestling, a sport I also enjoyed growing up. I remember competing in Vandalia growing up. It seldom went well. I also remember watching several Vandals compete in the state tournament as a spectator, sitting in the cheap seats of the arena, a legacy of success Dillon calmly shares that he’s now a part of.
As we talk, Dillon suggests that Vandalia’s passion for wrestling comes from the momentum built through earlier competitors’ blood, sweat, and tears. That those who wrestled before him found success and that success breeds success. “Others saw what they could do and followed them,” says Dillon. And I think, work hard. Have fun.
He adds, “The community itself makes Vandalia what it is. If you’re visiting, I don’t think you get the full experience like you do if you live here. I just think that everybody’s really close. Everybody at the school is good friends with each other.”
When looking towards the future, Dillon is contemplating becoming a teacher. While Dillon isn’t sure where he wants to go or what he wants to study, he anticipates working with kids. He wants to attend college close to home so he can remain near and spend time with his family.
Dillon’s favorite class is history, but he adds that ‘reading is up there, too.’ He often combines his two academic interests by reading books on history, biographies, and autobiographies. He often reads about wars through the eyes of veterans, wanting to learn about wars from the soldiers who fought the battles. “It’s just really interesting to look back at all the things people have done and learn from it,” concludes Dillon.
While Dillon is contemplating becoming a teacher and potentially wrestling in college, he doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself, choosing to focus on what’s left to accomplish. Again, I think, work hard. Have fun.
“I put a lot more time into my sports than I think people would realize,” concludes Dillon. “All summer, I’ve been going to this wrestling camp down in Mt. Vernon. There’s a lot more I’d like to do. Wrestling specifically. I’d like to win the state championship. That’s what I’d like to do.”